The Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has threatened to order its members to withdraw their services from the port over plans by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to auction trucks seized for conveying contraband items.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY shortly after a meeting with the Zonal Coordinator in charge of Zone ‘A’, Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) Kaycee Ekekezie, in Lagos on Tuesday, the Chairman of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi called for the intervention of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to prevail on Customs to stop the planned auction.
While accusing importers and clearing agents of making false declaration in their documentation, Ogungbemi said he was surprised that Customs has decided to re-introduce the auctioning of seized trucks despite the fact that truckers are not privy to the content of the containers they carry on behalf of importers and agents.
He said, “I am surprised that instead of Customs just seizing the contraband goods and give us our trucks; they have started auctioning our trucks.
“They were doing this before about 20 years ago but later they stopped and issued us a circular that henceforth, they will be releasing our trucks to us.
“So we truckers are warming up for strike and we want the authorities to intervene, otherwise we will withdraw our services in protest against the illicit activities of importers, exporters and their collaborated agents who will not tell the Customs exactly what is inside the container and that form the reason why Customs is impounding and auctioning our trucks.
“The law says any contraband seized should be seized together with the means of conveyance. But in our case, some of the containers are being examined by Customs in the port before they are released but we truckers are not part of those doing the examination and we are not even privy to the document they are using to clear the containers.
“That is why we are surprised that Customs, instead of just seizing the goods and give us our trucks, have commenced auctioning them.”
He, however, said the Customs Zonal Coordinator has promised to table the matter before the Comptroller-General and convene a meeting between the truckers, clearing agents, importers and exporters.